Children given a toy and shown how to use it will "learn" how the toy works, but will not explore beyond what they are shown. This is true even if they simply overhear instructions being given to a child in the same room. Children not given instruction will explore the same toy with a wider range of investigations and will find things that the first groups of children do not find. (Bonawitz et al, 2011, quoted in Invent to Learn)Here is another definition: Constructivism is a theory of learning that is child-centred, open-ended, project-based and inquiry based. Learning is social and the learner is the centre of attention. Learning results from experience and is constructed inside the head of the student. Instructionism is explicitly teaching facts or showing students how to solve problems and then having the students practice them. Instructionists believe that learning is the direct result of having been taught.
Thanks to Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez for giving me a lot to think about today. What sort of teacher am I? I think I do a bit of both. Sometimes I do show students how something works - for example recently I've shown our 5th Graders how to use Sketch Up. I tried to do this in a sort of minimalistic way by showing them the different tools and then asking them to play and explore by themselves, but for sure there were some students who wanted to know how to make a dome on the top of their structure, for example, and we did watch a tutorial on that together (and then I later showed some other students how to do this). On the other hand I've also taken a very hands-off approach in other situations, for example in introducing 3rd Graders to Google Earth, where I have simply asked them to go and explore and then share what they discovered with the rest of the class.
What do you think? Which type of teacher are you?